Tags: voting | machine | count | fraud

States Deal With Early Voting Glitches, Miscounts

Friday, 02 Nov 2012 11:02 AM

By Stephen Feller

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Five days before election day, reports of “glitches” and misrecorded votes have popped up across the country as more and more voters take advantage of the chance to vote early.

Broward County, Fla., has seen the biggest revision to voting numbers when more than 1,000 votes disappeared from official tallies on the supervisor of elections website, reported NBC News.

Brenda Snipes, supervisor of elections in Broward County, told NBC that the official number of votes cast was decreased by roughly 1,000 votes because of an addition problem when data was being entered onto the county website.

When early voting centers close for the evening, Snipes said, poll workers pull the number of voters from machines, manually add them up, and then report them to the county office. Those numbers are taken over the phone and posted on the supervisor of elections website.

She said that in trying to make information available to the public as quickly as possible, her office posted the numbers before double-checking the math.

“No votes have been lost,” Snipes said. “No votes have been counted or exposed to anyone. Those numbers that you see are the number of people who showed up at a site. Sometimes a person may show up and decide not to vote. They may cast a provisional ballot. The numbers you’re seeing, we’re reporting people, we’re not reporting votes.”

Several reports of touch-screen votes being changed — when a voter attempts to select one candidate, the box next to another appears to be selected instead — but were chalked up to technical glitches or user errors.

Sophia Rogers, the director of the board of elections in Marion County, Ohio, has had to recalibrate machines because the screens were not synced properly, she said.

Touch-screens work with two layered screens, one for the display and the other to sense what a user is telling the screen to do. If they are not properly lined up, the computer system will misunderstand what part of the screen users have touched.

Joan Stevens, a Marion County voter, had to touch a screen three times before securing her vote because the machine lit up President Barack Obama’s name every time she attempted to select Mitt Romney.

“You want to vote for who you want to vote for, and when you can’t it’s irritating,” Stevens said.

The machine was recalibrated, as Rogers said, and no further issues were reported. “I am certain the equipment works properly,” she added.

In Guilford County, N.C., where more than 100,000 people have already voted early, Director of Elections George Gilbert said that there have been a few dozen complaints about votes — a small fraction when compared with the number of votes cast.

Electronic voter registration tracking systems, which are used to verify who a person is and that they are properly registered, have caused minor headaches in some states, including Georgia, New Mexico, and Maryland. Though voters had to wait, those problems were corrected.

New Mexico resident Ralph Perdomo went to vote and was told that he’d already requested an absentee ballot — he claims that he did not — so the system showed him as already having voted.

Absentee ballots and late registrations may be cause for concern as tens of thousands of applications for both were filed late across the country, including more than 33,000 in Ohio that may have been rejected because addresses had not been properly verified, according to the Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

The records, which were sent to local officials by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, was caused by a “breakdown in the data sharing partnership” Husted’s office has with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Plain Dealer reports that it is currently unknown how many applications were rejected because of the delay in verifying records.

Rather than fill out a provisional ballot, Perdomo said he was going to try to get the problem straightened out before Tuesday. "I want to vote just like everybody else. I want to make my vote count this time, and so I'm pissed off!” Perdomo said.

The Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project said that voter registration and the technology behind electronic voting machines has improved by leaps and bounds in the 12 years since the contested election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

"Voter registration is gradually getting better," said Charles Stewart, a political science professor at MIT. "Voting machines are clearly better. This is a voting-technology feel-good story. We're getting the voter registration process into the 20th century, if not the 21st century."

Stewart said that the chances for problems like those that marred vote counts in Florida in 2000, delaying the results of that year’s presidential election for weeks, is much lower now than it was then. Still, problems already are being reported in Florida.

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